The newSpin newsletter, Dec. 26, 2011
By Bill Lewellis
Published Monday, occasionally also on Thursday
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Just when we think we might have overdosed on Nativity scenes, the gospel reading in church this Sunday will feature this austere reminder: that which is, always has been. It IS. Jesus of Nazareth was born in a time and a place, but Jesus the Christ is not contained in a moment. The moments of Christ are all now. ––Barbara Crafton
• Working with what we don't know about Sudan ... [Bishop Paul] Some of you have noticed reports about the archbishop of the Sudanese church recognizing the Anglican Church in North America as the true Anglican presence in North America, and pledging his church to work only with "orthodox" dioceses within The Episcopal Church. The archbishop of Sudan has accordingly withdrawn his invitation to our Presiding Bishop to visit Sudan. The issue is the status of gay and lesbian people in our church. It is my hope that Bishop Anthony of Kajo-Keji and I can have personal communication before there is any public analysis from either of us on the substance of this matter, or of the theological and ecclesial dimensions of an individual national church taking decisions about how the Anglican Communion is present in another place, and I wrote to him on Saturday and have forwarded other correspondence to him, including this. More here.
• Church bombings in Nigeria ... [NYTimes] A series of Christmas Day church bombings, in which 25 people died, appeared to be a coordinated assault by Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect with suspected training links to Al Qaeda. The sect, known as Boko Haram, until now mostly targeted the police, government and military in its insurgency effort, but the bombings on Sunday represented a new, religion-tinged front, a tactic that threatens to exploit the already frayed relations between Nigeria’s nearly evenly split populations of Christians and Muslims. The worst bombing was at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madala, a suburb of the capital, Abuja, where an explosion ripped through a crowd of worshipers as they left morning Mass. More here.
• Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering System needs volunteers ... Here.
• Renewal Assembly 4 ... will focus on empowering leaders in our parishes and is designed to help vestry members in particular and those interested in leadership and taking an active role in parish vitality. Saturday, February 11, at seven locations around the diocesee. More here. Register here.
• Grateful in West Pittston ... [John Major, rector, Trinity West Pittston] In September as I walked and drove the streets of West Pittston, I was overwhelmed by the destruction and the enormity of the loss suffered when the Susquehanna River washed through homes and businesses just blocks away from Trinity. Today I am overwhelmed again, this time by the magnitude and generosity of your response to our neighbors affected by the flood. More here. [Janine Ungvarsky, Trinity West Pittston] As part of our ongoing efforts to help our neighbors as they work to recover from the September flooding, Trinity West Pittston recently held a Christmas Cheer distribution of new and used toys, clothing, and other items, including the gift cards so many generous parishes keep sending us to share it our neighbors. A number of West Pittston residents stopped by to select items that we hope will make their Christmas a little brighter. As has been the case each time we've reached out to our neighbors, we found ourselves touched by the stories they share with us. More here.
• Grace Montessori School funding from City of Allentown may go down ... [Beth Reed, rector, Grace Allentown] Today's (Dec. 21) New York Times has an article about a federal program that directly benefits cities. The article focuses on Allentown. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program channels federal funds to cities; Allentown has used such funds to improve downtown buildings and services. The CDBG funding is being reduced again this year at the federal level, so Allentown will receive a smaller grant, and the city will have less money for such downtown projects. Our school, Grace Montessori, has applied for and received Community Development Block Grants for several years ($15,000 a year). We use the money to provide scholarships to Allentown children. This has been one way the church, through our school, contributes to the vitality of our downtown. If this source of funding goes down, so will our ability to fund scholarships.
• Occupy Wall Street v. Trinity Wall Street ... Bishop Packard, all decked out in the paddy wagon, video here. Interview with Bishop George and Brook Packard, video here. Also see Episcopal News Service.
• Bishop's School, Spring 2012 ... The courses for the spring session of Bishop's School are: (1) New Testament - taught by The Reverend Daniel Gunn - AM session. (2) Ethics and Moral Theology - taught by The Reverend John Heffner - PM session. At St. Stephen' Wilkes-Barre. Begins January 28. More here.
• Bishop's Day with Youth, grades 6 to 12 ... Join Bishop Paul for a beach party, a day of surf, sun, sand, music, food & fun on Jan. 21 from 4:00 to 9:00 at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. Register here. The cost for the event is $20 or $15 if you register before Jan. 6.
• Father Gerns' Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Bible Study ... This is not the Bible for dummies. But it is for people who feel dumb around the Bible. Next session: January 4 – February 15: Jesus’ Prayer Book (and ours): The Psalms. Wednesdays, 6:15 to 7:30 p.m., in the Charney Room at Trinity Easton. Call the Trinity office for more info and/or to sign up: 610-253-0792. More here.
• Illuminating plight of the homeless at St. Stephen's Wilkes-Barre ... [Times Leader] One by one, they read the names of deceased homeless people and then blew out a candle. The 93 homeless who have died over the years in Wyoming Valley were remembered Wednesday evening in a poignant service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on South Franklin Street. More here.
• Renewal Assembly 4 ... will focus on empowering leaders in our parishes and is designed to help vestry members in particular and those interested in leadership and taking an active role in parish vitality. Saturday, February 11, at seven locations around the diocese, 9 to 3. Register .here where you will also find more info.
• Diocesan Life, December/January ... available here.
• Calendar of Diocesan Events ... Updated Dec. 2. Here.
• Weekly Parish eNewsletters ... There are now five. I publish links to the weekly electronic newsletters of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Grace Allentown, Prince of Peace Dallas, Trinity Easton and St. Anne's Trexlertown because these seem to me to be attractive, newsy, helpful and user friendly. The Cathedral's newsletter is created with ChurchPost that, through a diocesan contract, is available free to all parishes. There may be other weekly electronic newsletters, besides these five, that might be looked at. Please let me know. Cathedral, Dec. 23, here. Grace Allentown, Dec. 22, here. Trinity Easton, Dec. 23, here. Prince of Peace Dallas, Dec. 23, here. St. Anne's Trexlertown, here, click on "Weekly Calendar."
• 2012 Mileage Rates ... [Bruce Reiner] Beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven (unchanged from the mid-year adjustment that became effective on July); 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (reduced by 0.5 cents per mile); and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
• Episcopal News Weekly bulletin inserts ... Download inserts here.
• Public news and info lists ... At the Diobeth website , enter your name and email in the "Get Connected" box on the right hand side. You are welcome to subscribe to any or all of these. "Bakery" is our diocesan interactive list.
• Origins of America's favorite Christmas carols ... [Christian Science Monitor] Here.
• Now here's a twist ... [Joe Jackloski, writing at Bakery, Dec. 21] I have upper range hearing loss and variable tinnitus (ringing in my ears) because of years of concert going without ear protection. This morning I awoke and remarked to myself "boy its unusually quiet" before I realized the tinnitus was virtually gone. Right now I am in the basement at my Mac, I can clearly hear the TV in the Kitchen upstairs. I'm not foolish enough to think this will last forever, but it certainly is a nice surprise for now. A prayer of thanks for this respite is in order.
• RC cardinal under fire for comparing gay rights movement to Klan ... [Chicago Tribune] Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has never been shy about expressing his views on divisive issues like abortion rights and civil unions for same-sex couples. But gay rights groups say the Chicago archbishop crossed the line when he compared the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan. More here.
• Gay and vilified in Uganda ... [NYTimes, Frank Mugisha, Dec. 22] When I was 14, I came out to my brother. Later, when others close to me asked if I was gay, I didn’t deny it. Though some relatives accepted me, I came out to the rest of my family slowly. Some simply chose to ignore the fact that I was gay, or begged me not to tell anyone, fearing I’d shame our family name. Others stopped speaking to me altogether. Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us. The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia. For years, the Christian right in America has exported its doctrine to Africa, and, along with it, homophobia. In Uganda, American evangelical Christians even held workshops and met with key officials to preach their message of hate shortly before a bill to impose the death penalty for homosexual conduct was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in 2009. More here.
• The dumbest local politics scandals of 2011 ... [The Atlantic Cities] Here.
• The Daily Office ... with the Mission St. Clare. Now available for iPhone and iPad.
• With The Book of Common Prayer ... Here.
• For our young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for their families ... Check the newSpin blog for an update. Better still, at the "Get Connected" box on the right side of our diocesan website, fill in your name and email address, and click on "My Groups." In the next window, check "Pray for." Then, you will receive the weekly update by email.
• Praying the News is a blog by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Here.
• eCommuniqué ... The Christmas newsletter of the Episcopal Church Women. Here.
• The ABC's Christmas Sermon ... [Anglican Communion News Service] When the first Christians read – or more probably heard – the opening words of John’s gospel, they would have understood straight away quite a lot more than we do. They would have remembered, many of them, that in Hebrew ‘word’ and ‘thing’ are the same, and they would all have known that in Greek the word used has a huge range of meaning – at the simplest level, just something said; but also a pattern, a rationale, as we might say, even the entire structure of the universe seen as something that makes sense to us, the structure that holds things together and makes it possible for us to think. Against this background, we can get a glimpse of just what is being said about Jesus. His life is what God says and what God does; it is the life in which things hold together; it is because of the life that lives in him that we can think. Jesus is the place where all reality is focused, brought to a point. Here is where we can see as nowhere else what connects all reality – all human experience and all natural laws. Edward Elgar famously said about his Enigma Variations that they were all based on a tune that everyone knew – and no-one has ever worked out what he meant. But John’s gospel declares that the almost infinite variety of the life we encounter is all variations on the theme that is stated in one single clear musical line, one melody, in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. More here.
• Episcopal Church website ... Episcopal Church on Twitter ... Episcopal News Service ... ENS on Twitter ... NewsLine ... News & Notices ... Infoline ... Episcopal Church on Facebook ... Episcopal Church on YouTube ... Anglican Communion website ... Anglican Communion News Service. ... Anglican Communion News Service on Facebook.
• NEPA Synod E-News ... Dec. 22, here. NEPA Synod website ... Here. ELCA website ... Here. ELCA News Service ... Here. ELCA's blogs may be found here. See especially "Web and Multimedia Development."
• UMC website Here. News Service Here. Communication Resources Start here. Communication newsletter (tips and tools) Here. Eastern PA Conference website Here. Facebook Here. Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.
• Will B16 resign? ... [HuffPost] Pope Benedict XVI seems worn out. People who have spent time with him recently say they found him weaker than they'd ever seen him, seemingly too tired to engage with what they were saying. He no longer meets individually with visiting bishops. A few weeks ago he started using a moving platform to spare him the long walk down St. Peter's Basilica. Benedict turns 85 in the new year, so a slowdown is only natural. Expected. And given his age and continued rigorous work schedule, it's remarkable he does as much as he does and is in such good health overall: Just this past week he confirmed he would travel to Mexico and Cuba next spring. But a decline has been noted as Benedict prepares for next weekend's grueling Christmas celebrations, which kick off two weeks of intense public appearances. And that raises questions about the future of the papacy given that Benedict himself has said popes should resign if they can't do the job. More here.
• Diocese of Allentown ... Here. Diocese of Scranton ... Here. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here. Catholic News Service ... Here. Vatican website ... Here. Vatican Information Service blog ... Here. Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.
• The Sydney Awards ... [NYTimes, David Brooks] Part I, Dec. 20, For anyone looking to reflect well and expand horizons, here’s the first installment of the best essays of 2011. Part II, Dec. 22, Another batch of stellar essays. December 22, 2011
• 2011: The year in pictures ... [NYtimes Sunday Review] Here.
• Messiah ... [Trinity Wall Street] Conductor: Julian Wachner. With the Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra. Video here.
• The Daily Office from MissionStClare. Now available for iPhone and iPad.
• The Lectionary Page ... Here. This is a new URL. Update your bookmarks or favorites.
• The Lectionary ... Here.
• Oremus Bible Browser ... Here.
• Revised Common Lectionary ... Vanderbilt.
• Jan. 5 Ordination of Eddie Lopez to priesthood, St. Stephen's, Wilkes-Barre 7:00 p.m., reception to follow.
• Jan. 2 Bishop's Day with Youth, grades 6-12. Nativity Bethlehem. Register here.
• Feb. 11 Renewal Assembly 4, seven locations, 9 to 3. Register here.
• Feb. 19 Celebration of New Ministry, Doug Moyer and Christ Church Stroudsburg, 4:00 p.m.
• March 24 Diocesan Training Day, St. Stephen's Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre 9:00 to 3:00.
• March 29 Chrism Mass, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem 11:00 a.m.
• April 13 Ordination, Nativity Cathedral Bethlehem, 7:00 p.m.
• April 20-22 Christophany Retreat, grades 6-12, at Pocono Plateau Retreat, Cresco.
• May 16 Episcopal Church Women Annual Meeting, Kirby House 9:00 to 2:30.
• May 20 St. Matthew's Society Gathering, Lehigh Country Club, Allentown 3:00 p.m.
• June 1-3 Vocare Retreat for Young Adults, Kirkridge Retreat Center.
• June 16 Renewal Assembly V, various locations, 9 to 1:30.
• June 30 Bishop's Day with Kids
• July 5-12 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, Indianapolis.
• July 28 Bishop's Day with Kids
• Summer Senior High Mission Trip. Dates and destination TBA.
• Sept. 20 New Hope 5th Anniversary.
• Sept. 25 Pre-Convention Meeting, St. Albans, Sinking Spring 7:00 p.m.
• Sept. 27 Pre-Convention Meeting, Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit 7:00 p.m.
• Oct. 2 Pre-Convention Meeting, Nativity, Bethlehem 7:00 p.m.
• Oct. 5-6 Diocesan Convention.
• Nov. 11 Joint Eucharist with United Methodists, Asbury UMC, Allentown, 4:00 P.M. Bishop Paul to preach.
• The Diocese of Bethlehem on Twitter and Facebook ... http://twitter.com/#!/Diobeth ... https://www.facebook.com/DioceseOfBethlehem
• Kat Lehman on Twitter ... http://twitter.com/#!/KatLehman
• Episcopal News Service on Twitter ... http://twitter.com/#!/episcopal_news
Additional sources of news/info/commentary
• Religion News Service Daily Roundup ... here.
• Faith in Public Life ... here.
(1) The Lead, Episcopal Cafe
(2) Daily Episcopalian, Episcopal Cafe
(4) AnglicansOnline News Centre.
You are reading the newSpin newsletter. The newSpin blog, which includes the newsletter and other items, is available here. When the newsletter is completed on Mondays and occasionally, more often than not, on Thursdays as well, it is published immediately to the blog and on Bakery and on a ChurchPost list of some 1,000 addresses. Many recipients forward it to many more. Bakery and the blog are interactive. The ChurchPost list is not. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop or the Archdeacon as an official communication. If you're wondering why you haven't seen something related to your parish or agency here, it's probably because no one has sent relevant info. Regarding items about your parish or agency as well as feedback on any other items ... send email to Bill.
Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998)
Blog , Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]